Online Reading Challenge – March Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Readers!

How did your reading go this month? Did you read our main title, Station Eleven, or did you find something else to read?

Station Eleven is one of my favorite books, but it can be difficult to read at times. The fear, the isolation, the unrelenting unknown can sometimes cut a little too close to what we went through with Covid. Fortunately, Covid was not quite as deadly or as fast acting (although close enough) to the flu that swept through the population in Station Eleven and while our world has not changed as dramatically as it did in the book, it is different from what was before.

One thing I love about Station Eleven is the traveling band of actors and musicians, spreading a little bit of culture and beauty, that despite all of the loss and heartbreak, humans crave something more. (The quote from Star Trek that Mandel uses reflects this beautifully – “survival is not enough”) The traveling band provides some relief, a sense of community and ties to a past that is gone forever. I also liked how the passage of time after their pandemic is shown, how the “before” time slowly become stories and legends – it made me wonder about our history and how much of it has faded and shifted over time.

In the end I found Station Eleven to be full of hope – that good still exists, that humans can adapt and move forward, that even at the end of the world, there is reason to carry on.

How did you feel about the book you read this month? Was there a theme of fear and isolation in, but also optimism for the future? Or were people too burdened by grief and heartbreak? How do the worlds in each book look different from before and after? What are the lasting affects on the survivors? Has your thinking about the past and how stories are remembered changed? How are memories an imperfect record of the past, but also powerful reminders?

Let us know in the comments what you thought of this month’s reading challenge!

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue

“We all live in an unwalled city, that was it. I saw lines scored across the map of Ireland; carved all over the globe. Train tracks, roads, shipping channels, a web of human traffic that connected all nations into one great suffering body.”

I have to admit, I took a risk reading The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue due to its extremely timely and grisly content but, that being said, I am extremely glad I read this novel and am excited to share it with you.

This historical fiction novel is set in Dublin, Ireland, and takes place during the most lethal wave of the 1918 Flu Pandemic and WWI. The story primarily revolves around Nurse Julia Powers, who works as a midwife and cares for expecting mothers who have contracted the virus. Not unlike conditions we have witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals were described as being completely overrun with patients, severely understaffed, and lacking necessary medical supplies. With that being said, there were also some very different hardships people experienced over a century ago, so this is a very enlightening and humbling glimpse into the experiences of a past pandemic. Taking place over the span of three days, you will experience a whirlwind of emotions as you follow Julia through her incredible work at the hospital and meet several unforgettable women who will haunt you long after you finish the story.

Overall, I found this book to be extremely intense, but definitely worth the read. Not only does this subject hit close to home as we are living through a pandemic ourselves, but the fact that Julia spends most of her time working in the maternity ward lends itself to several passages with explicit descriptions of medical procedures (albeit they are noted as being extremely accurate for the time according to the notes at the end of the book). While I definitely found myself feeling squeamish at times, I was truly in awe and astounded by the seemingly impossible work Julia did for her patients during such a trying time.

This story is also brimming with character development, as you get a chance to intimately meet several women in the confines of the maternity/fever ward and learn their stories over the course of three days. You will definitely find yourself on an emotional rollercoaster, experiencing sorrow and sympathy, hope and love, shock and awe, life and death, and everything in between. I was extremely inspired and humbled by the strength and resilience of humanity in this novel, and this is what ultimately made it well worth the read while living in the midst of COVID-19.

I also found myself extremely interested in the setting and time period of this story itself, as I didn’t know too much about either the 1918 pandemic or the history of Ireland during this period of history before reading. In fact, I was drawn in so much that I immediately found a documentary and podcast to listen to after finishing the book.

All in all, I found this novel to be worth its intensity and, while it may not be the best time to read this particular book for some, it may be relatable and inspirational to others as we live through a pandemic in our own time.

This book is also available in the following formats:

OverDrive eAudiobook

OverDrive eBook

Shoot the Flu — Get a Shot!

I’ll confess — I usually find a very good reason NOT to get a flu shot. But this morning I actually got one! According to the American Public Health Association, October and November are the best months to get vaccinated. The shot won’t protect you from the dreaded bird flu — just the regular stuff. And of course, young children, the elderly, and those whose immune systems are compromised should definitely get their shot. Another option these days, at least for healthy individuals between 5 and 49 and who are not pregnant, is the nasal spray. The spray is a good alternative for kids or others who really don’t like needles. Either way, getting a flu shot is easy, only takes a minute, and can protect you and those you love.

Visit the Center for Disease Control for more information on the flu shot and other ways to protect yourself from the seasonal flu.

Or, if you’re interested in learning more about the avian influenza (bird flu), check out Fowl: Bird Flu: It’s Not What You Think by Sherri Tenpenny.